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|| News Item: Posted 2000-07-28

Road Warrior: On Earplugs and Crappy United Airlines
By Mongo

Photo by

No, now that I think of it's definitely the worst of times, for air travel that is.

I'm writing this article at 28,000 feet, trapped in a single class cabin on my way to Sacramento for the Olympic track and field trials.

Every cliché horror story you ever heard about flying coach or on a shuttle flight, pales by comparison to what I am now experiencing. Everybody knows NOT to sit in the bulkhead rows, because that's where they seat families with small children (so they can't kick the seat in front of them) Well guess what? Not only am I stuck in the bulkhead row, but I'm surrounded by small screaming kids!

The hollering, yelling, and occasional high-pitched scream can be attenuated with a good pair of earplugs. MONGO likes the NORTON or EAR foam earplugs, $2.39 for 10 pairs at any drugstore.

You squeeze em between your fingers and roll them up like a joint, then stick'em in your ear where they expand and form fit every nook and cranny of your ear. Because they are foam, they breathe, so your ears will adjust as the cabin pressure changes. Providing 29 to 31 decibels of noise reduction, they provide relative peace and quiet.

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
They do nothing however to alleviate the foul stench of children barfing during the takeoff roll.

It's really quite the visual experience to see the vomit surging out of the tyke's mouth but not hear the retching or gurgling one normally associates with that kind of activity.

As you can see, with the seats facing each other, it's not like you can turn away from the unfolding drama.


On short hops (under 2 hours) I usually fly the United shuttle, but if you've been reading the papers lately, you know that their on time performance has been less than stellar. (2ND from last place) I've heard many tales of woe, from travelers far and wide of delayed flights and missed connections.

Last month, Hanashiro got fucked over by United on a flight to Indy for game 3 of the NBA Championships. Get this, on selected flights, instead of boarding passengers at the terminal, they herd you onto buses and drive you out to the hangers to board.

Problem was, somebody forgot to order buses, and so there was a 30-minute delay while the gate agent tried to wrangle some buses.

Wait it gets better

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo
They get everybody out to the hanger and start boarding via the AIRSTAIR, (you know the stairway that's mounted to back of a truck) and everything is going great until one of the ramp workers notices that one of the passengers is in a wheelchair.

Seems that the gate agent forgot about this little detail, so the ground crew spends another 40 minutes trying to figure out how to get the wheelchair passenger into the plane.

Ok, so now the flight is 1 hour and 10 minutes behind it's scheduled departure, so the Captain tries to make up for lost time in the air and pushes the throttles all the way to Denver.

The plane lands in Denver and Hanashiro bolts off the plane, doing an OJ through the terminal, gets to the departure gate for the Indy flight, and is told that they've already given away his seat because it's less than 10 minutes 'till departure!

Original arrival time in Indy was supposed to be 2:30pm but because of the missed connection and another mechanical delay in Denver, Robert didn't get into Indianapolis till 11:30pm!!!


Don't put up with this shit!

Try flying a different airline. You may be pleasantly surprised.

I recently had to take a LAST minute flight to Oakland, and all the United shuttles were booked so I called SouthWest and got a seat right away. I parked next to Terminal 1, wheeled my roll aboard into the terminal and was dismayed to see a line of about 60 passengers waiting to buy tickets or check baggage. It looks like a 30-minute wait in line BUT much to my shock and amazement I was through the line in just under 10 minutes!

How could this be?

The secret is that Southwest, knows how to schedule personnel. If it's rush hour and they're running 20 positions at their check-in counter they actually have 20 people working! As opposed to those gerbils at United, when the crush is on, the counter people are heading off for a break or are staring at their computer monitors, hiding behind a "position closed" sign.

The flight into Oakland departed ON TIME and arrived EARLY!

My return flight was uneventful and I was struck by the efficiency of Southwest's baggage handlers.

When I strolled into the baggage claim area, there were my bags, going round and round on the carousel.

Compare that to last week, when I had to wait over an hour for the dipshits at United to get bags off a flight from Denver.

Now just to make sure my good SouthWest experience wasn't just a fluke, I booked my flight to Sacramento for the Track & Field trials on Southwest as well.

Guess what?

That flight boarded on time, departed on time and arrived on time!

For the return flight, I was treated to another surprise. When I did the curbside bag check, I was informed that my 2 bags were overweight and that the airline would charge me $40.00 for each piece. The SouthWest skycap then mentioned that I was allowed 3 pieces and he would round up a box for me to transfer some weight from the other 2 bags, so I would be legal!

I tipped the guy $20.00 and SouthWest has landed me as a regular customer for their short haul flights.

Photo by Mongo

Photo by Mongo

Hey! Have you ever noticed that when the plane lands and pulls up to the gate, most people can't wait to unbuckle, jump into the isle, get into the overhead bins and get off plane.


You're just going to end up waiting around the baggage carousel anyway.

Get a clue from MONGO and just sit back and relax. Recline your seat and wait for all the other "tourons" (travel industry slang for tourist / moron) to shuffle off the aircraft. Now you can gather your belongings and deplane at a leisurely rate without getting jostled, bumped, or stepped on. Being last off the plane also has the added benefit of creating stress and turmoil for any parties waiting for your arrival (family, friends, your photo editor who rode in first class and didn't upgrade you).

(Mongo Johnson is a former gaffer who worked on such movies as "Slapshot", "Blade Runner" and "Plan 9 Form Outer Space". He is currently working in Southern California as a travel consultant to the stars"

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